Brian Moore

A prolific novelist his books ranged widely in subject and theme

Novelist Brian Moore was born in August 1921 at Clifton Street, Belfast. His father was a prominent doctor and the first Catholic to sit on the senate of Queen’s University. Educated at St Malachy’s College, which Moore remembers as ‘a priest factory’, he failed to enter university. As a ‘teenage leftie’, he was involved with the Belfast Theatre Guild, and joined the Air Raid precaution service on the outbreak of the second world war.

After the Clifton Street house was damaged during the 1941 Belfast Blitz, the Moore family moved south to Camden Street, then north again to the Cliftonville Road. In 1942, Moore left the ARP for the Fire Service. The following year he left Belfast as a civil servant with the Ministry of War Transport, and served in North Africa, France and eastern Europe.

Moore was a prolific novelist, and his books range widely in subject and theme. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1956) and The Emperor of Ice Cream (1965) both deal in Irish matters, while The Colour of Blood (1996) examines repression in the Soviet Union. Black Robe (1985) is based in seventeenth century Canada, and The Magician's Wife (1998) focuses on the court of Napoleon III. Also a successful screenwriter, Moore wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain.

Brian Moore lived in Montreal, Malibu, Long Island and Nova Scotia, returning to Belfast only for brief visits in later life. His attitude to his native city was ambivalent at best: ‘It’s always been a recurring dream of mine to blow Belfast up.’ Belfast, and his family’s place in it, was something Moore wanted to ‘get out of [his] system’. Nevertheless, by the time of his death in 1999, he had long been acknowledged as one of Ireland’s most significant writers.

Further Reading
Brian Moore: A Biography (2002) by Patricia Craig; Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist (1998) by Denis Sampson.